Hong Kong schools

Switch off your phones and play outside, Hong Kong children told

Parents warned to be more wary of online activities after survey finds ‘extremely unsatisfactory’ situation with kindergarten kids

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 10:11pm

Children at Hong Kong kindergartens spend too much time playing on smartphones, watching television, and too little on physical activities.

These are the findings of a Jockey Club survey, which highlights the need for parents to be more careful when it comes to activities for their youngsters.

In the wake of the 1,200 parents polled, specialists warned the situation is “extremely unsatisfactory” and they should have outdoor fun with their children and be more wary of online activities.

The survey carried out in January found that on average children, aged three to six, spent slightly more than two hours (125 minutes) in front of various electronic monitors on school days and nearly two hours (115 minutes) at weekends, twice the one hour a day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2016.

On school days, about half of children spend less than the recommended three hours on physical activities, with this rising to 70 per cent at weekends.

Blue light from screens affected the quality of sleep, while remaining in fixed postures for sustained periods was detrimental to the development of both body and mind, said Professor Joanne Chung Wai-yee, dean of the faculty of liberal arts and social sciences at Education University, who co-led the survey.

All work and no play: why more Hong Kong children are having mental health problems

“What makes a difference is not the parents’ awareness but their actions,” Chung said, adding that children spent more time playing outside when they were encouraged to do so.

Vienna Li Wing-yiu, six, has two days of outdoor activities every month. “I don’t have enough time,” her mother, who has two other daughters said. “Kids at different ages have different needs and I have housework to do.”

Playing smartphones since the age of two, Vienna said if her teenage sisters stopped, she would too. However, when asked what she would prefer to do more of, she replied she “would like to have more time playing phones because there are many games”.

Rabia Demir, also six, is allowed to watch DIY shows or cartoons in English online because her mother believes they will be of benefit to her.

“It would be better if her dad could share some chores and play fewer video games with the kids,” said her mother, who gave up her full-time job to spend more time with Rabia and her two elder brothers.

Chung said online games could be beneficial but parents should be more careful in time management and selection.

“Also, don’t be so afraid of children getting hurt when playing,” Sam Wong Wing-sum, executive director of the Physical Fitness Association, said. “It’s the way of rearing at the root.”